I jumped off a f’in cliff

Colombia’s famous for paragliding and Bucaramanga is one of the hot spots. Talking to the peeps at KGB (Kasa Guane Backpackers hostal) they said Richi was flying the canyon de Chicamocha tomorrow (saturday) and if I wanted to try paragliding, that was the place. Can’t go anywhere without my computer so what the hell, I’m in.

7:00am Cesar picked me up and then we swung by the Parapente flight school www.colombiaparagliding.com to load up gear and the students.

The van held 4 students (Jack, Tom, Marc, and Loni), 2 of us riding tandems, 3 instructors, and Cesar and Lily driving the van and running ground control. Everyone was quiet except Richie and Leo joking up front. There was definite tension as I wasn’t the only one nervous and apprenhensive. So far the students had only been flying and practicing the local hill, but the canyon was full of thermals and changing wind patterns, not to mention the launch was pretty much a full commitment jump off the cliff and hope for the best. While I watched Leo and Richi chating away, my first impression of Leo was a cocky young kid, still with his braces. I found myself thinking, God, I hope I’m not teamed up with him. Sure enough I was.

Leo was runner up in the Columbian national acrobatics championship and has won multiple titles. The guy is an awesome flyer and once it was time to fly, he was super professional and tons of fun. I couldn’t have been in better hands. Thanks Leo …and Damn was it a good time. We flew the highest (except for Jack), the longest, and before landing Leo asked if I wanted any tricks. Hmmm, I thought, do I? Be gentle I told him and all he said was “hang on”  Yikes! He busted out a wing-over and another trick I forgot what he called it. All I remember is looking down and seeing the wing below us with my hands squeazing the grips so tight I was getting arm pump and cramping.  We were spinning with so much inertia that I was glued upside down to my harness. Woohoo! I felt like slim pickins riding the bomb.  Crazy!

When we landed everyone was glowing with adrenaline. One of the students compared flying the canyon as going from the bunny slope to a double black diamond.

We all headed to a water park for lunch where we partook in a serious booze fest. Countless beers and four bottles of Rum were polished off in five hours as we played volleyball, cooled off in the pool or just hung around drinking. On the drive back we picked up two more bottles of rum and lots more beer and continued the festivities at the flight school. Richi generously offered for me to crash at the school instead of heading back to KGB and so I did.

Party, party, party.

…I just have to keep reminding myself I can’t afford and don’t need another expensive, extreme hobby. Though it’s soooo tempting.

I went back to the school a few days later and while talking pictures, Richi offered me another tandem flight. This was a 40 minutes, sunset ride. Much more gentle than the canyon but just as impressive. I can’t tell you how tempting it is to learn how to fly. If I ever do commit, you can bet I’ll be going back to Richi’s school in B’ramanga.

Heres’ some pics.

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